Upstate seniors suffering from dementia get 'puppy love' at monthly meetup


Mark Turnbull, who suffers from early stage 6 Alzheimer's, took every opportunity Wednesday morning to pet and cuddle dogs from Lucky Pup Rescue when they came to the Aloft Hotel in Downtown Greenville.

"They just make you feel so great," said Mark Turnbull.

Turnbull and his wife, Rhonda, were also there to connect with other families in a similar situation as his.

"It's been great for us, somewhere where we can get out and spend time with people who are like us. There's little or no expense involved. So it really gives us a break, helps a whole lot," said Rhonda Turnbull.

Jamie Guay, the program director for Greenville's chapter of the South Carolina Alzheimer's Association, started the "Connections Cafe" a few years ago. It's a monthly meetup that allows people suffering from early to mid stage dementia and their caregivers to get together for different activities.

Guay said that socialization is critical for those suffering from the disease and their families.

"This allows them to be in a safe environment to come out and to engage with other people and just enjoy each other. Some of the ladies text each other know, and they do things outside of these events.

Guay said she's heard just how big of an impact those events can make.

"They'll say when my husband comes home from this, we'll have a good 2 or 3 days, like good days. Where he's just more alert and with it," said Guay.

Guay said this month they chose to do a puppy event because a lot of people like Mark love animals.

"The best thing is just watching them play and getting together with each other, it's just great," said Mark.

Guay said these events wouldn't be possible without the help of community partners. Griswold Home Care, Lucky Pup Rescue and Aloft Hotel all helped put together the puppy event followed by lunch at the hotel.

Guay also added it's so important for everyone dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia to get connected with others as soon as possible so they have a support system in place.

Click here, to learn more about how to get connected with support groups and resources in your area.

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